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Causes and Treatment for Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff is a set of four muscles stabilizing shoulder joints while allowing your arms to rotate freely. These muscles provide shoulder cohesion, stability and prevent easy dislocation of the shoulder joints. Major muscles comprising the rotator cuff include infraspinatus, supraspinatus, teres major and subscapularis muscles. They are attached to the shoulder blade and humerus bones and assist in various rotational movements involving the shoulder.

Athletes and weight trainers are especially vulnerable to rotator cuff damage due to overstressing muscles and creating an imbalance of muscle strength. Non-athletes may also suffer rotator cuff pain if shoulder joints are affected by bursitis or arthritis.

Rotator Cuff Disease

Rotator cuff disease is typically diagnosed in people over 40. Initially developing out of shoulder joint and/or muscle inflammation or bursitis, rotator cuff disease may go on to impact shoulder tendons by causing small tears and, eventually, full thickness tears. Signs of rotator cuff disease include inability to raise arms, shoulder pain while playing tennis or golf and general weakness of the shoulder. Frozen shoulder is a symptom of late-stage rotator cuff disease.

Rotator Cuff Impingement

Inflammation of shoulder bursa and tendons caused by overuse of a shoulder joint often leads to rotator cuff impingement. Symptoms of rotator cuff impingement include pain, stiffness and reduced range of motion. Neglecting to treat rotator cuff impingement could allow tearing and thinning of shoulder tendons requiring longer recovery times and extended treatment. Rotator cuff impingement is also called "pitcher's shoulder", rotator cuff tendonitis or "swimmer's shoulder".

Chiropractic Treatment for Rotator Cuff Impingement

Traditionally treated with anti-inflammatory medications, rest, ice and steroid injections, rotator cuff impingement may not respond as expected to these treatments. Repeated injections of steroids can weaken tendons, causing a biomechanical imbalance in the affected shoulder that worsens the condition. Medications provide only temporary relief of pain and stiffness and do nothing to address the underlying cause of RCI.

Geaux Chiro recommends Active Release Technique (ART) to effectively treat rotator cuff impingement without relying on drugs, steroids or surgery. A hands-on technique directly addressing soft tissue injuries, ART is performed by trained chiropractors with in-depth knowledge of human biomechanics, physiology and anatomy. By altering tissue structure to dissolve scar tissue and adhesions responsible for pain and stiffness, ART restores health and normal functioning to inflamed shoulder muscles. ART also improves the ability of rotator cuff muscles to glide, stretch and support joint mechanics. Once adhesions are removed using ART, your chiropractor may prescribe exercises to further strengthen shoulder muscles and muscle balance.

Rotator Cuff Strengthening Exercise

Begin this exercise by lying on your left side. Place a rolled towel under your right armpit and bend your elbow at a 90 degree angle. Your forearm should rest against your chest. Raise your left forearm and extend the shoulder out, similar to the motion of a tennis backhand swing. Now lower your arm and repeat the exercise several times before switching arms.

External Isometric Exercise

Performing this isometric exercise affects the infraspinatus and teres major muscles. First, lie down on an exercise mat or other comfortable area. Place both hands in front of your chest, palms touching and press them firmly together. Hold for about five seconds. After repeating ten to fifteen times, take a break and try the exercise again. If you feel pain, however, immediately stop, as this means you are straining damaged rotator cuff muscles.

Internal Isometric Exercise

Any type of activity that involves pushing against an immovable object constitutes an isometric exercise. Lying down under a heavy table or desk and pushing against it keeps the other muscles under a safe form of tension but does not force the body to move. This type of exercise allows repair and build-up of muscle tissue without taking a chance on damaging the rotator cuff joint further during the healing process.

Rehabilitative Exercise for Severe Rotator Cuff Injuries

This exercise is useful for severe rotator cuff injuries early in the rehabilitation process. Lie face down on the edge of a couch or bed. Allow the arm and shoulder injured to hang off the edge of your support. Lift this arm until it is shoulder level, then bend your elbow downward. While your elbow is still in this bent position, raise your hand until it is level with your shoulder. You can repeat this exercise as many times as you feel comfortable doing.

Call Geaux Chiro today to schedule an appointment if you suffer shoulder pain and stiffness that has not responded to traditional treatments. In addition to ART, we offer a variety of chiropractic techniques that can heal your shoulder and eliminate pain and dysfunction.

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